Hi-lee woke up much later, and, without even asking, she knew nothing had happen while she was out. Just as she awoke, though, the door of the dungeon opened. A familiar glowing figure entered.
"I'm just here to try to get you to tell us about your country," said Rosewood once the door was closed. He winked at them, but Elk-lore didn't even attempt to grin back.
"What's wrong, Elk-lore?" he asked.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Okay.... I'll bet you guys are hungry," Rosewood said softly.
"Yes, I'll bet we are," said Jocy. "So?"
"Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I can make you guys food using my magic. The bad news is, you only have two choices."
"What are they?" asked Jocy.
"Roasted rabbit meat or avocado."
"What's avocado?" asked Hi-lee.
"Don't you know? We have them in fairyland all the time. Remember, Elk-lore? Aren't they Kara's favorite food?"
"They were, but she's dead now," said Elk-lore bluntly, sounding sad.
"Oh, Elk-lore," said Rosewood. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. I was just trying to get you--"
"Well," said Rosewood, changing the subject, "are you guys hungry or not?" In an instant, some rabbit meat appeared on Jocy's perch, and Hi-lee found herself standing next to an avocado.
"Uh... Are you supposed to eat this thing?" asked Hi-lee, looking questioningly at the fruit.
"It's an avocado," said Rosewood. Hi-lee shrugged and started to eat it, skin and all. Jocy was already hungrily devouring the meat.
"Do you want anything, Elk-lore?" asked Rosewood. Elk-lore shook his head. "Listen, Kly's taking your magic. You're going to get hungry."
"I don't care."
"Do you want to starve to death?"
"I'm not going to be a traitor."
Rosewood finally understood. "She wouldn't want you dead, too."
"I made a promise."
"Elk-lore, that's a long time. Longer than most. But you won't live that long if you don't eat something."
"I don't care."
Rosewood sighed. "All three of you, listen. I'm going to try to free you, but I'll probably need some help. I'll whisper the code word to Elk-lore. If someone uses it, then you can trust him."
Rosewood leaned in close to Elk-lore's ear, but Hi-lee still heard the word he said in the lowest possible whisper: "Kotu." He whispered loud enough for Jocy to hear, "I must leave now. When you two have eaten as much as you can, the leftover food will disappear. I will come back later, but you can't afford to be caught with food in here. Kly knows what food I can make." He left abruptly and, about an hour later, another fairy came in.
"What are you doing here, Periwinkle?" asked Elk-lore angrily.
"Why are you so mad at me, Elk-lore? I'm just worried about you."
"No, you're not," said Elk-lore matter-of-factly. "What is Kly going to give you if I talk?"
"Nothing, darling. Nothing at all. Why don't you think I'm worried?"
"If you were worried about me, then maybe you would have tried to get Kly to let me go. Personally, I wouldn't want to see a fellow living creature in pain, let alone one from my own species. It could happen to you, Periwinkle."
"Why don't you want to tell Kly about Jet-a-Miray, anyway? That country's really helped you, I'm sure."
Elk-lore replied sharply. "This country took my magic in the first place. Do you expect me to help Tas-et-lal? I'd rather die."
"Oh, Elk-lore. Don't do this. Do you really want to die?"
"I think you should leave."
"Oh, and you're in a position to do anything about it? Very well. But are you sure that you don't want to tell me anything? I heard that Rosewood has been spending a lot of time here." (Fortunately, the remains of Hi-lee's avocado had already vanished. Jocy had eaten all of the rabbit meat.)
Elk-lore was careful not to reveal anything to Periwinkle that she may not know. "Yeah, he's been coming in here a lot. So?"
"He didn't seem like he wanted to convince you to help Kly at all when I talked to him before."
"He didn't," interrupted Hi-lee. "But I heard your conversation with him. You said that Kly would kill two fairies if Rosewood didn't try to convince Elk-lore. I guess he must've been worried about them." Elk-lore would have shot Hi-lee an approving glance, but Periwinkle could see his features as well as a human could see another human.
"Well. I'll keep an eye on him," said Periwinkle. "I'm sorry it didn't work out, Elk-lore." She grinned wickedly. "Say hi to Kara for me."
"What?" asked Elk-lore, shocked.
"I just mean... Kly killed her, and soon, Kly will kill you. See you around." Periwinkle left, and Elk-lore sighed.
"How can someone be so pretty outside and so terrible inside?" asked Elk-lore. He yawned and, without another word, fell asleep.
Elk-lore woke up about thirteen hours later. He looked around and saw that Jocy and Hi-lee were both asleep. He tried to free his hands from the long chains that did little to restrain him, but he couldn't even loosen the shackles. He moved his arm. causing the chain to rattle slightly.
"Elk-lore!" exclaimed Hi-lee, waking up. "I'm sorry! If I would've known you were awake, I never would've fallen asleep!"
"That's all right. I just woke up. Did anything happen while I was asleep?"
"Nope. Jocy and I talked a little, but not about anything important." She yawned tiredly.
"Why don't you go back to sleep?" asked Elk-lore. "I'll bet you're tired."
"Won't you be lonely?"
"Of course not."
"I'm sure." Hi-lee yawned again. "Go on. You need the sleep. I--" Elk-lore cut himself off, because he saw that Hi-lee had already closed her eyes. "Good night," he said softly. The sleeping mouse stirred softly, then settled down again. Elk-lore thought about everything he had been through in the last few days while he waited for his only friends to wake up.
They did, several hours later. Jocy woke up first, and she accidentally woke Hi-lee up in the process. The mouse yawned. Just then, Rosewood appeared out of nowhere. He flew around Elk-lore slowly, looking him over.
"Elk-lore, you don't look so good," he said, his expression showing he knew Elk-lore wouldn't make it much longer. He whispered, "That's it. You have to escape tonight, no matter what. Or at least try. It will be nearly impossible to sneak past all those guards."
"Can't you just make them fall asleep?" asked Hi-lee.
"It's not that simple," replied Rosewood. "Each fairy only has specialized talents. For instance, I can make myself like a ghost, invisible and able to go through walls."
"She could stop time," said Elk-lore.
"She who?" asked Hi-lee. "Periwinkle?"
"No. Periwinkle's main talents are a pretty face and persuasion. Kara could stop time. Don't forget her, Rosewood."
"I won't," said Rosewood, thinking, 'The poor guy's losing it.' He turned to leave.
"Wait!" exclaimed Elk-lore. "I know how we can get past the guards!"
"How?" asked Rosewood skeptically.
Elk-lore fumbled through a pocket and took some dry, shriveled items out. "Kotu-berries!"
"Of course!" said Rosewood. "They don't grow in this country. Elk-lore, you're a genius! All I have to do is bake these into some muffins, or even put these in the guards' dinner!" He took the berries cheerfully. "I have to leave now. Goodbye!" In a second, Rosewood was invisible and, presumably, gone. A few minutes passed, and then Elk-lore broke the silence.
"Kara could stop time," he repeated.
"You told us that. How?" asked Hi-lee curiously.
"She had to touch her foot with her hand. Then people, animals, everything would freeze. To wake someone up, all she had to do was pull out one of his or her hairs." He ran his fingers through his hair, absently and nervously. "It's a wonder I didn't go bald." He turned angry in an instant. "It's not fair! She didn't see it coming! If something came at her, like an arrow, she could just stop time and dodge, or even moved the object, Or if she woke me up, I could've killed anyone trying to cross into Jet-a-Miray. Kly didn't even give her a chance...." He trailed off and fell asleep, or at least that's what it looked like. Hi-lee thought he was more than just naturally asleep.
Several hours later, the dungeon door opened. Jocy and Hi-lee were very surprised when a human entered. He was young, about thirteen, and poorly dressed. Though he was young, the two spies were wary. Hi-lee instinctively cowered to the back of her cage, and Jocy prepared to fight if necessary.
"Calm down, you two," whispered the boy, as if he didn't want to be found there. "I'm here to help you escape! Rosewood couldn't come, because Kly became suspicious after Periwinkle told him about all the time Rosewood's been spending here. Kly took away some of his powers, and... well, I won't get into that." He brought out several assorted keys. "Do you want to get out of here?"
Hi-lee instantly trusted the boy, but Jocy was still suspicious. "What's the code word?" she asked, knowing that Hi-lee had heard it.
Without hesitation, the boy replied, "Kotu."
Hi-lee nodded. "Then what are you waiting for? You have keys; use them!" cried Jocy.
"Are the guards asleep?" whispered Hi-lee as the boy unlocked her cage.
"Yes. They'll be asleep for several hours, so you'll have time to get a head start on them." The boy lifted Hi-lee and put her on the ground. Then, he set to work on Jocy's shackles, talking as he went.
"You must leave this country quickly, and warn your Sela."
"Of what?" asked the absent-minded mouse.
"I don't know. Rosewood said you knew something important. He didn't tell me what; I'm just a kitchen boy." Jocy was freed, and the boy knelt down to release Elk-lore from his chains. "Oh, my. He's not in good shape at all."
In the excitement, Hi-lee had forgotten about her glowing friend. "Is he dead?" she asked. "Never mind. I'll see for myself."
The boy interrupted. "But--"
"No 'buts'. I know what I'm doing."
"Uh, mouse, I think that you should--"
"Be quiet!" Hi-lee snuck up on Jocy and quickly pulled a feather out.
"Ow!" the eagle exclaimed angrily. "What was that for?"
"But--" The boy was cut off again.
"I know what I'm doing!" Hi-lee repeated. She took the small feather and placed it in front of Elk-lore's face. The feather moved, slightly stirred by the fairy's breath. "See? He's alive!"
The boy spoke. "Of course he's alive! I was trying to tell you. If a fairy's still glowing, then he's still alive! When a fairy's dead, then he stops glowing and looks like a small human with wings."
"Oh," said Hi-lee in a subdued tone. "Uh, sorry Jocy." Jocy whacked Hi-lee in the head hard enough to knock the mouse down. Hi-lee didn't seem to mind.
The boy released Elk-lore from his shackles. "You, Jocy, will fly out through this dungeon and the trap door. I left it open. Then you will fly through the hallway. I will run ahead and try to open it before you get there. Rosewood got all the dungeon guards to sleep, but not those in the rest of the castle, so you must fly away as quickly as you get outside." He used a large rock to prop the door of their room open, then ran ahead quickly. "Come when you're ready, and good luck!" he called back.
The boy had forgotten to do one thing--place Elk-lore on Jocy's back. Hi-lee struggled to lift Elk-lore, but it was no use. Hi-lee had to fetch the boy, which was a risky and time-consuming task. It was a good ten minutes later before the boy returned, holding Hi-lee.
"Sorry," he said, carefully lifting the fairy onto Jocy's golden back. For good measure, he placed Hi-lee there, too, though she would have had no trouble climbing up herself. The boy ran ahead again, and Jocy made her feathers a dark brown color, hoping that the glowing object on her back wouldn't give them away. Not that she wished he wasn't glowing... Suddenly, the boy came back for the third time.
"I almost forgot," he said, handing a small object wrapped in cloth to Hi-lee. "When Elk-lore wakes up, Rosewood said to give him this." The boy left again, and Jocy prepared to take off. She waited for a minute, to make sure the boy was ready, and then flapped her wings and took off. Hi-lee tried to hold on to the cloth-wrapped object and Jocy while trying to keep the still unconscious Elk-lore from falling. Jocy flew carefully, trying to keep her back flat, through the dungeon, trap door, and hallway. When the boy saw Jocy coming, he quickly opened the door, just in time for the eagle to get through it.
Once they were outside, Jocy made her feathers a dark lavender color to blend in with the evening sky. That didn't keep the guards from noticing the spies, though. Several of them dove at the eagle, in an attempt to catch her, but it was too late. As an afterthought, a couple of guards shot arrows at her, but they probably couldn't have hit a flying elephant. The arrows were all at least a hir off their target, and Jocy cheerfully glided off toward Jet-a-Miray.
They were free.
Go on to Chapter 14
Go back to The Stories of Julie Bihn